The Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church's Spectators into Active Participants argues for seeing the marginally involved members of a church as a mission field.  The book is a mix of original analysis of national research on attenders, many field studies and hundreds of interviews as well as reflections on cultural shifts related to volunteering and observed patterns from our studies of church leadership teams.  It offers a diversity of approaches for dealing with this 20/80 problem (20% of the people do 80% of the work while most of the rest do nothing) and various strategies by which a church's leadership might begin to address the issues of member mobilization and discipleship. 

The premise is that very few church leaders engage a large percentage of their membership in a life of faith that includes regular involvement in the congregation.  Thus, part of the reason for writing this book was to confront this too-often taken for granted reality that it is acceptable for a church to function with only a half of the members ever in attendance and only a quarter of those members significantly involving giving, serving, fellowshipping, attending, or inviting others. 

We offer a number of possible ways to lead a congregation past the 20/80 malaise.  We suggest that leadership teams need to think critically evaluate what they are currently doing as a church to facilitate involvement.  We further implore clergy, in desperate times like these for the future of the church, to think creatively and outside the usual approaches to reach the less involved.  We suggest that there is no single solution, no one-size-fits-all answer, to this problem.  But we do offer a number of possible approaches to addressing this issue from which they could pick and choose the most fitting for their context. So while we rely on surveys, field studies and interviews to arrive at our description of the issue and possible solutions, as a whole the book this essentially an action handbook to changing member involvement dynamics.

We suggest that a church should begin to correct its waning involvement and participation ratio by:

  • First, taking an assessment of the opinions of members – listen to them (the highly involved and the least engaged) what motivated and hinders commitment in your congregation.
  • Second, learn the patterns of involvement as well as the roadblocks and challenges in your community, in your church programs, and in the expectations of your staff and lay leaders.
  • Third, identify those activities you are doing currently which promote and attract robust involvement and intentionally strengthen these to a greater degree.
  • Fourth, think outside the box of ways of being the church, connecting members in ministry that fits their everyday lives and lifestyles, and that meets their needs, the church’s needs and the mandates of the gospel.
  • Finally, remember that involvement and participation are the correlates of spiritual growth and a person’s spiritual fulfillment.  80% participation isn’t the goal – spiritual fervor and growth is.



Listen to presentations by Scott and Warren

How to Engage the ‘Other 80 Percent’ - Radio Interview with Warren Bird

Getting the Other 80 Percent - An interview with Scott Thumma by Chris Yaw of Grow My Church! Blog

A workshop Scott and Warren lead on a few of the ideas in The Other 80 Percent that was held at Hartford Seminary
[This 93 minute audio file is in .mp3 format; it is a large file (87 MG) and may take a minute or more to dowload before it begins.]

The Other 80 Percent on YouTube

YouTube - What's the Big Idea of The Other 80 Percent?
Co-authors Scott Thumma and Warren Bird respond to the question, "What is the big idea of The Other 80 Percent?"

YouTube - The Other 80 Percent -Why did you write the book?
Scott Thumma and Warren Bird discuss the question, "What prompted you to write The Other 80 Percent?"

YouTube - The Other 80 Percent -What is the most challenging concept?
Scott Thumma and Warren Bird address the question, "What is the most challenging concept of The Other 80 Percent?"

YouTube - The Other 80 Percent - One Chapter
Scott Thumma and Warren Bird discuss the question, "If leaders had time to read only one chapter of The Other 80 Percent..."

YouTube - The Other 80 Percent - The authors' favorite quote
Scott Thumma and Warren Bird answer the question, "What is your favorite quote from The Other 80 Percent?"



“I can’t believe the amount of research that Thumma and Bird put into this project. I immediately began to give renewed focus to some areas that our church’s leadership had let slide. It contains so much practical stuff that I am going to make sure our ministry teams read and apply the strategic practices of The Other 80 Percent.” 
Dr. Michael Slaughter, lead pastor, Ginghamsburg Church; author, Change the World: Recovering the Mission and Message of Jesus

“I love this book. Thumma and Bird love the church enough to call us on our sloppy thinking, hunches, and outdated assumptions, and they have the expertise to present us with the facts. Their thorough research forces us to listen to the people we never hear from, the people on the outskirts of church, the ones who have left or may be about to. God is still speaking, even through that disengaged 80 percent who may not want to stay that way, if only we will learn from what they have to say.” 
Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel, senior minister, First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ; author, This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers

 “This book is what you get when a researcher and a pragmatic team up to address a critical topic in the life of congregations. It will not only help you understand why your members are not more involved, it will help you do something about it! This is one of those rare books that could come with a money-back guarantee. If you are not better equipped to reengage the less-involved members of your congregation after reading this book, I will be shocked. Any single chapter of this book is worth the full price. Never has so much solid material been packed into one book on a topic seldom addressed in the life of congregations.” 
Dr. C. Jeff Woods, American Baptist Churches, USA

“Leaders seeking increased vitality only through reaching new people are missing a far larger group of potential disciples – their own less than fully active members. The Other 80%, a book worthy of attention by every church and every pastor, combines solid research with practical methods for churches to take next steps.”
Lovett H. Weems, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Church Leadership and director, Lewis Center for Church Leadership, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC

“Through solid research and a heart for the church, Thumma and Bird remind us of the need to focus on maturing the church into the mission of God. This book will help you reengage the people of your church into the work of the ministry. The Other 80% is a helpful resource for any pastor's library.”
Ed Stetzer, co-author of Transformational Church 

“Over and again I hear from clergy about the challenge of getting their members involved. Thumma and Bird have done the hard work and provided the answer to this ages-old dilemma. In this superb volume, you find plenty of hard data, lots of practical suggestions, and an entire program that can transform a congregation. An absolutely essential read for any clergy who wants to find the way forward.” 
Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president, Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, VA

“If you want to learn surprising yet practical ways to draw the marginal 80% into ministry and spiritual development, you need to read this book over and over. It will show you surprising yet practical ways to draw the marginal 80% into ministry and spiritual development. The extensive research alone is worth the price of the book.”   
Bill Easum, author, consultant, coach and President of 21st Century Strategies

Place The Other 80%: Turning Your Church's Spectators into Active Participants at the top of your reading list. Employing fresh research, authors Scott Thumma and Warren Bird offer insights that will empower your work with your less active people. Pick it up today, read it tomorrow, and begin putting it into practice the next day.
Gary L. McIntosh, D.Min., Professor of Christian Ministry & Leadership, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University Author of Beyond the Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church